Bradford City Hall and Centenary Square at night

Bradford City Hall and Centenary Square at night. Photo: Kelvinjay / Getty Images .

Why do we need to understand indoor air pollution?

UK residents spend around 90% of their time indoors, yet regulations to address air pollution focus almost solely on outdoor exposure. Indoor air pollution takes many forms, from particulate matter such as dust and soot from wood burners to gases like carbon monoxide from gas stoves. Breathing in these particles and gases are bad for our health and poor indoor air quality has been linked to lung diseases including asthma, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

About the project

SEI is taking part in a £2.9 million UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) project to better understand how the composition and concentration of indoor air pollutants vary and how this exposure affects people in their homes.

The project will focus on homes in the city of Bradford, which, like many other parts of the UK, is affected by poor air quality. Bradford has a multi-ethnic population and high levels of deprivation, with some of the highest childhood illness rates in the UK.

A team of scientists from four universities, including SEI York based at the University of York, will work with the Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Born In Bradford study – a long-term research programme following children born in the city – to better understand the potential impacts of poor indoor air quality on ill health.

The team will quantify and identify:

  • the composition and concentrations of air pollutants within indoor spaces, such as those from cooking and cleaning;
  • how air pollutants react chemically and transform over time, including when different air pollutants mix;
  • how air pollutants from indoor air sources affect outdoor air quality and vice versa;
  • how different household behaviours affect the production of and exposure to air pollutants and how this affects health outcomes and inequalities;
  • which behaviour change interventions are most effective at reducing exposure to indoor air pollution; and
  • which recommendations to take forward as policy solutions.
Aerial view of Bradford city centre, Yorkshire, UK
Aerial view of Bradford city centre, Yorkshire, UK. Photo: SAKhanPhotography / Getty Images .

SEI York’s contribution will focus on the co-production and evaluation of behaviour change interventions and the development of policy recommendations. To do this, SEI will communicate with homeowners, tenants and communities about the risks associated with indoor air pollution exposure and the actions they can take to reduce their exposure.

SEI will also work with local authorities, planners and developers to identify suitable policy recommendations for addressing this issue in homes across the city and provide a blueprint for applying these measures in homes and businesses across the UK.

“This study is the first of its kind to look in such detail at the pollution inside people’s homes in the UK, particularly focusing on poorer households. At SEI, we will be using our strengths in policy engagement and citizen science to work with decision-makers and local residents to identify how householders and local authorities can reduce exposure to air pollution in the home.

Once we have examined the different behaviours that influence a person’s exposure to indoor air pollution, for example, using fans whilst cooking or opening windows to increase ventilation, we will then provide advice to householders and local authorities on the changes they can make to improve air quality in the home.”

– Dr Sarah West, who is leading SEI’s contribution to the study

Funding

This project is funded by UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund Clean Air Programme.

The £2.9 million project will bring together specialists in environmental, social, medical, engineering, economic, and health issues.

The project is led by Professor Nicola Carslaw at the University of York, Department of Environment and Geography.

Research team

  • SEI York
  • University of York
  • Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Found Trust
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Sheffield

Project partners

  • Born in Bradford
  • HomeLINK
  • Immaterial
  • National Centre for Atmospheric Science
  • Reckitt Benckiser plc
  • Ricardo AEA
  • Tincture London
  • WSP Group plc UK (Parsons Brinckerhoff).